Puglia impressions, in brief

Old May 26th, 2015, 02:53 AM
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Puglia impressions, in brief

This month (May 2015) we were first-time visitors to Puglia (plus Matera in Basilicata). We had a very enjoyable 10-day trip. This post is just an outline of what we did but I can expand if anybody wants more detail.

The hotels we stayed in were:
Masseria Torre Maizza near Fasano/Savelletri
Mantatelure in Lecce
Palazzo Gattini in Matera

All three were excellent. Mantatelure is more like a top of the range bed and breakfast than the other two, and was thus less expensive. The others were certainly not cheap but they delivered a great product.

In Savelletri, besides dinner at the hotel (very good) we had dinner in both Osteria del Porto and its neighbour Sapore di Sale. The former was much better in our opinion. We had a good lunch at Beach Club Coccaro which belongs to the hotel.

In Lecce we ate dinner at Le Zie (good for horse meat!), at Osteria Della Divina Provvidenza, and at Osteria degli Spiriti. We can recommend all of them, but the last mentioned was the most impressive. Their antipasti was imaginative and fantastic and we drank a Primitivo which was memorable, partly because the alcohol content was 16.5%!

In Matera, we had reasonable dinners in Le Botteghe and Trattoria Lucana. The latter is more in the cheap and cheerful bracket; in fact I feared the worst with all the Mel Gibson photos on the wall, but food was OK and the house red was pretty drinkable. We also had very good antipasti and pasta in Ristorante del Caveoso, the cheapest of the three, although the guy in charge there would be an acquired taste.

Lecce and Matera have been pretty well covered elsewhere, so I can't add much except to say that both should definitely be on your bucket list. Lecce is not just a fantastic old city (town?), but good beaches are reachable from there in well under an hour if the weather calls for a swim.


Other interesting places we visited, albeit briefly, were Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberobello, Cisternino (a bit disappointing), Galatina (great frescoes), Gallipoli, Castel del Monte and Trani.

We were very pleased with our trip and we got what we wanted: history, architecture, great food and wine, good weather (mostly), attractive beaches. And the people were very friendly.

One slightly negative note to end on. Maybe it's the economic downturn, but many roads in Puglia are not being looked after. I don't mean the surface (although that was variable), but there were weeds everywhere and the verges and central reservations don't seem to have been tended for years. Also the outskirts of towns are much scruffier than in other parts of Italy I have visited, while garbage is frequently dumped at roadsides and just left uncollected by local government. This seemed to be more true in the Salento/Lecce area than around Matera.

So Puglia is a mixture of both beautiful and ugly avert-your-eyes sights. With a bit more money and civic pride, the balance could be corrected. Failing this, I can see tourism there not fully achieving its high potential.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 03:10 AM
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You paint an interesting portrait of Puglia. We (family of 2 adults, 2 teenagers) are heading there for the first of two weeks in Italy after school breaks next month; though, we are renting a house outside of Lecce rather than using hotels.

Ostuni, Alberobello, and Gallipoli are on the list for sightseeing, along with Matera. Did you utilize a guide for Matera, or go it alone? Our rental house has a pool, but I expect we'll be at the beaches as well. Any recommendations for beach going, good or bad?

A final question. Were you able to discern the dog-friendliness of the area, in restaurants and on the beaches in particular? DDog is traveling with us, and I've not found a great deal of information on the matter.

Thank you.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 04:05 AM
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Great update. The towns have always been dumps on the outside and jewels on the inside though there are a few that beat the rap (Martina Franca on one side for instance. Roads are not nice for litter but backroads can be perfectly pleasant.

Dogs; last time I was there I saw a few on leads but not in restaurants. If you word search https://thepugliadiaries.wordpress.com/ you'll see dogs mentioned

I've bike ridden around the area and got married there as well. If you get a chance go eat at a Masseria http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-go-wrong.cfm

Beaches select carefully, you'll find Monopoli is very gay friendly for instance, and you tend to have to pay for access, chairs etc. Enjoy
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Old May 26th, 2015, 12:09 PM
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Just to be clear: Matera is located in the region of Basilicata, not Puglia. Despite its historic reputation of Basilicata for some of the worst poverty in Italy, it actually has a better economic profile than Puglia today. Most of southern Italy, and Puglia in particular, has struggled tremendously for a long time due to many circumstances beyond the powers of its own citizens to remedy -- it has been colonized, industrially and agriculturally exploited, with many areas environmentally devastated, then wrongly "reformed" by outsiders and then abandoned, with its young people forced to migrate out, and thwarted and suberverted politically at many key moments by outside forces, making helpful democratic progress all the more difficult It's a complex situation. What I found most remarkable about my visits to Puglia and Basilicata was the vitality and warmth and creativity of its people in the face of historic adversity. All of Italy has a high standard of hospitality, but these areas of southern Italy are, in my experience, exceptionally generous.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 01:47 PM
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fourfortravel: we used the beach at Torre dell'Orso and liked it. There are sizeable parts of it that are not "organised". As for dogs in restaurants, we didn't see much evidence of that. But we were dining inside mostly: if the weather allows outdoor dining, then dogs would presumably be more acceptable there.
In Matera, we used Nadia Garlatti for a private 3-hour walking tour. She is a very nice woman with good English (although heavily accented). Her narrative is informative and we also got an insight into her family's interactions with the area.

bilboburgler: we found that the countryside around Matera very attractive and well-ordered relative to Lecce area. This seems to chime with sandralist's comments about Basilicata now being more prosperous than Puglia.

sandralist: yes I acknowledged in my original post that Matera was in Basilicata. I can see how Basilicata would historically have a reputation for poverty, given how well known "Christ Stopped at Eboli" is. Incidentally my wife and I were interested to see Carlo Levi's art works in the Museum in Matera; however we disagreed as to their merit.
I would agree that the people in this part of Italy seem particularly hospitable.
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Old May 26th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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fourfortravel: We were in Puglia last October and had a day trip to Matera where we also used Nadia Garlatti as our guide. Her email: [email protected]

We had a very enjoyable afternoon with her (well actually it went on into the evening until 8:00!) At her recommendation we had a very tasty lunch at Ristorante Nadi before meeting her.

I don't remember seeing any dogs in restaurants, only on leashes being walked outside. Oh and at a beach near Lecce (can't remember the name) there were dogs walking unleashed with their owners, however it was off season (although warm enough that we went swimming) and the beach clubs were closed so I am not sure if there are different rules about dogs during the season.

We found people in the area to be very warm and the food was delicious, as was the wine.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 12:07 AM
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autodidact and rainycitygirl, thank you both for the Matera guide information. I've sent a message to her.

And thank you, everyone, for commenting on the dog-friendliness. I've emailed the owner of our rental house for further information.

We have no doubt the food and wine will be fabulous, too! Three weeks and counting...
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Old May 27th, 2015, 12:13 AM
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Yes I agree the people are very friendly in both areas. Trust me, no one throws a party like southern Italians.

While I agree with sandra's points about the political and economical situation completely I also note "up to a point". The Puglian's have failed to use their own boot straps. Having seen the affect of corruption and "influence" in this area in particular they have also made their own bed.

I have seen incredible wealth in Puglia hidden behind tatty frontages and of course the terrible poverty of Matera in the 1950s has to be read about (and I think there are films) before you go. Think large families sleeping in one room without light and very limited washing facilities for generations at the same time as the UK had a NHS for 10 years or the US had its first Thunderbird.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 06:26 AM
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fourfortravel: I recommend La Torre di Merlino in the historic centre of Lecce for a delicious dinner. They do good pizza too but I think you have to ask for the pizza menu.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 07:01 AM
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This place is pretty fantastic
http://www.alleduecorti.com/
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Old May 27th, 2015, 08:54 AM
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Bilbo,

They are properly termed Pugliesi, and "bootstrap" arguments make me sick, especially in an area of such extreme environmental and economic degradation due to its monocultural planting of olive trees, and forced out-migration of millions and millions of its young over the years. The Pugliesi did extremely well in the United States. That ought tell you something (or maybe people just come to conclusions about their cultural superiority and never budge. I give up.)

As for Carlo Levi, try talking the people in Matera some time about what they think of what happened to them when they were rescued by destroying their homes.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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(For bilbo

https://news.google.com/newspapers?n...,5164691&hl=en
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Old May 27th, 2015, 08:21 PM
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I was in Matera, Basilicata and other parts of nearby Puglia (Alberobello, Martina Franca and Locorotondo) relatively recently with my husband at the end of 2014. I want to return to this wonderful region soon and so welcome the input of the OP on Lecce! It sounds like a place we would enjoy. Guess we need to travel further down the heel of the boot (although Sicily and Malta will have to come first!).

Also I would like to add for other potential visitors to the area, this is the one place in Italy I have been (after I think about 15 visits) where knowing a bit of Italian is really important. I do, and there were times we would have been at a standoff if I hadn't been able to speak the basics of the language. Which made it even more enjoyable to me, I could show off to my husband, hahaha!

As a side note to Sandralist, I like reading your informative posts so sorry in advance if I make you want to have a confrontation? You seem always really ready to challenge everybody. That said, I also read Carlo Levi's book and found it gave me wonderful insight into the history of Basilicata. It doesn't mean I agree with everything the world/government/people did when the government "rescued" Matera, but I do think it's an interesting book to point out to travelers who are thinking of visiting the area. Reading it doesn't connotate one's views.

Chill pill to all!
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